EPA Publishes Water Conservation and Efficiency Best Practices for Water Supply Assessment

EPA has published a document that provides water conservation and efficiency best practices for evaluating water supply projects.  The document is entitled, “Best Practices to Consider When Evaluating Water Conservation and Efficiency as an Alternative for Water Supply Expansion (PDF).”

The purpose is to help water utilities, as well as Federal and state governments, carry out assessments of the potential for future water conservation and efficiency savings to avoid or minimize the need for new water supply development.  The document includes some basic background information, along with best practices and case studies in the following categories:

  1. Water System Management: Supply Side and Demand Side Accounting
  2. Water Loss Minimization: Leak Management
  3. Metering
  4. Conservation Rate Structure
  5. End Use Water Conservation and Efficiency Analysis
  6. Water Conservation and Efficiency Plan

There is also an appendix with a deliverables chart for quantifying actions taken in each category.  For more information, visit EPA’s website.



EPA Finalizes Effluent Guidelines Rule for Dental Metals

EPA has finalized a regulation to reduce discharges of mercury and other metals from dental offices into municipal wastewater treatment plants, and thus to waterways that may serve as drinking water supplies.  EPA expects that this final rule will reduce the discharge of dental metals to wastewater treatment plants by at least 10.2 tons per year, about half of which is mercury.  This rule will strengthen human health protection by requiring the use of technology and best management practices in dentists’ offices across the country recommended by the American Dental Association, and that approximately 40 percent of dental offices already employ.  Once the mercury is captured, it will also be able to be recycled.  For more information, visit EPA’s website.

NRCS Announces FY ’17 Funding for Regional Conservation Partnership Program Projects

By Kira Jacobs, US EPA Region 1

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced its funding for the FY 2017 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) projects.  This year, $225 million will be invested nationwide!

This is the third round of projects being funded for the RCPP.  The RCPP provides conservation assistance to producers and landowners for the purpose of improving the nation’s water quality (including drinking water sources), combating drought, enhancing soil health, supporting wildlife habitat, and protecting agricultural viability.  Partners must provide matching funds or in-kind contributions, and may include state government agencies (including drinking water programs), water utilities, NGOs, and universities.

In the spirit of collaborating with other partners, I encourage you to read through the list of FY 2017 RCPP projects by state.  Some of them indicate an obvious connection to source water protection (such as projects on the list in Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, and West Virginia).  In other cases, the nexus with source water protection is more subtle.  I encourage you to “dig a little deeper” if you see a project in your state that is located in a source water protection area where you are currently working or would like to work.  The purpose of these projects is to encourage collaboration and leverage the expertise of numerous partners.  NRCS offices in each state can assist you in identifying and reaching out to the partners if you are unable to find information online.  Also, the NRCS website includes projects awarded for the past several years (the program began in 2015).  Since most programs are multi-year, you may want to refer to the past years’ projects as well.

Click here for the full list of 2015 projects.

Click here for the full list of 2016 projects.

An example of an ongoing RCPP project where source water protection is a key component of the project is the Connecticut River/Long Island Sound RCPP.  This 2015 RCPP project brings together dozens of partners in six states.  Source water protection is a stated priority for this project, even though the Connecticut River is not a drinking water source!   When the project was conceived, the Connecticut Association of Conservation Districts decided to include source water protection in one of its three focus areas for the project, Land Protection.  It was determined that, because this vast watershed is home to so many large municipal drinking water supplies, it is important to protect their sources.  As a result, $3.25 million is being directed to land protection in priority source water protection and critical habitat areas.  To learn more about this project, please refer to the project website:  http://www.lisw-rcpp.com/


EPA Finalizes Stronger Standards for Pesticide Applicators


 EPA has finalized its new standards for applicators who apply restricted-use pesticides that are not available for purchase by the general public, and require special handling.  The benefits of this rule include fewer acute pesticide incidents to people and reduced chronic exposure.  EPA’s stricter standards would require all people who are certified to apply restricted use pesticides as well as those working under their supervision to be at least 18 years of age. These certifications must be renewed every five years. Learn more about how the pesticide application rule protects workers from pesticide risk.  Read a blog post by Assistant Administrator Jim Jones about the strengthened standards.


Three New Water Story Map and Visualization Tools

SWC Nutrient Story Map:  The Source Water Collaborative (SWC) has launched a new interactive highly-visual Nutrient Story Map as part of its Learning Exchange.  This Story Map includes a variety of information about nutrient pollution problems and harmful algal blooms, as well as source water protection challenges and nutrient reduction success projects taking place across the country (see related article).

USGS Water Use Visualization:  The USGS Water Availability and Use Science Program has developed a new “How Much Water Do We Use?” data visualization tool  that highlights USGS data from 1950 to 2010. The visualization highlights how water is used differently in the east versus west half of the country, and shows water use trends for thermoelectric power, public supply, irrigation, and industrial withdrawals. An accompanying press release can be found HERE.

EPA Water Progress Story Map:   EPA has launched a new “Protecting America’s Waters” interactive, multimedia story map to highlight the progress made to protect America’s waters since 2009. This story map features the most prominent accomplishments within the following areas: clean water protection; drinking water safety; water infrastructure; community assistance; climate change resilience; and science and innovation. The story map is a snapshot of EPA’s ongoing efforts toward clean and reliable water.


EPA and USGS Publish Report on Protecting Aquatic Life from Effects of Hydrologic Alteration

EPA and the USGS have released a report providing scientific and technical information related to the protection of aquatic life from effects of hydrologic alteration. This report presents a literature review of natural flow and a description of the potential effects of flow alteration on aquatic life, as well as examples of water quality criteria that some states have developed to support natural flow and maintain healthy aquatic life. The report also describes a flexible technical and scientific framework that state water managers can consider if they are interested in developing narrative or numeric targets for flow that are protective of aquatic life.  This scientific and technical report is non-regulatory and does not affect or constrain state or tribal discretion.
Hydrologic alteration can include an increase or decrease in water volume, seasonal flow disruption, and dramatic variation in water temperature. Hydrologic alteration can affect aquatic species’ ability to spawn, gather nutrients from the stream system, access high-quality habitat, and more. Hydrologic alteration may be further exacerbated through climate change. Recent climate trends have included the change in frequency and duration of extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, which can have an impact on flow and affect aquatic life. Maintaining flow targets may help increase a stream’s resilience to climate change by reducing or avoiding intensification of existing stressors.


For more information and to view the report, visit EPA’s website.  For questions, please contact Diana Eignor of EPA at eignor.diana@epa.gov or Jonathan Kennen of USGS at jgkennen@usgs.gov.


Draft Human Health Recreational Ambient Water Quality Criteria for Cyanotoxins Published by EPA

EPA has just published and is now accepting comments on its draft human health recreational water quality criteria for the cyanotoxins microcystin and cylindrospermopsin.  These are the draft recommended concentrations of microcystins to protect human health while swimming or participating in other recreational activities in and on the water. Once final, states can consider adopting these criteria into their water quality standards and using them for Clean Water Act purposes. Alternatively, states can use these same values as the basis of swimming advisories for public notification purposes at beaches. The draft criteria and/or swimming advisories are based on peer-reviewed, published science and methods. EPA is also providing information on the latest science on human health effects from exposure to cyanotoxins, discussion of other governmental guidelines for recreational waters, and information on incidents involving exposure of pets and other animals to cyanotoxins.  EPA is accepting comments on the draft criteria document for 60 days.

For more information and to view the draft criteria, visit EPA’s website.  For questions, please contact Jamie Strong at strong.jamie@epa.gov.

EPA Releases Final Hydraulic Fracturing Report on Impacts to Drinking Water Resources


EPA has just released its final report entitled, “Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources in the United States.” The report concludes that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances and identifies factors that influence these impacts.  As part of the report, EPA identified conditions under which impacts from hydraulic fracturing activities can be more frequent or severe including:

  • Water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing in times or areas of low water availability, particularly in areas with limited or declining groundwater resources;
  • Spills during the management of hydraulic fracturing fluids and chemicals or produced water that result in large volumes or high concentrations of chemicals reaching groundwater resources;
  • Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into wells with inadequate mechanical integrity, allowing gases or liquids to move to groundwater resources;
  • Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into groundwater resources;
  • Discharge of inadequately treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater to surface water resources; and
  • Disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in unlined pits, resulting in contamination of groundwater resources.

A broad stakeholder engagement process helped to ensure that the final assessment report reflects current practices in hydraulic fracturing and uses all data and information available to the Agency. The report provides valuable information about potential vulnerabilities to drinking water resources, but was not designed to be a list of documented impacts.

For more information and to view the report, visit www.epa.gov/hfstudy.


SWC Launches Nutrient Resources on Learning Exchange


The Source Water Collaborative (SWC) has launched a series of nutrient related resources as part of its Learning Exchange theme on “Nutrient Reduction Successes.”  We hope that these resources will be helpful for state drinking water programs and others to support and promote source water protection with their partners and stakeholders.  The resources include:

  • blogpost from Jim Taft (ASDWA), Lynn Thorp (Clean Water Action) and Karen Wirth (EPA);
  • A new interactive highly-visual Story Map highlighting projects across the country working to reduce nutrients;
  • A link to the SWC’s Agricultural Collaboration toolkit, which includes tips for partnering with Conservation Districts and State Conservationists; and
  • A link to the webinar recorded earlier this month on messaging SWP in agricultural communities.

To view the resources, visit the Learning Exchange page on the SWC website.



EPA Issues NPDES MS4 Final Remand Rule in Response to Lawsuit

EPA has developed its Final NPDES MS4 Remand Rule that revises its regulations governing regulated small municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permits in response to a lawsuit by the Environmental Defense Center in the U.S. Court of Appeals.  The court determined that the regulations for small MS4 general permits did not provide for adequate public notice and opportunity to request a hearing, and failed to require a permitting authority review of best management practices to ensure the reduction of pollutants in discharge from the permittee’s systems to the “maximum extent practicable” to protect water quality, and to satisfy the appropriate water quality requirements of the Clean Water Act.  This final rule establishes two alternative approaches a permitting authority can use to issue NPDES small MS4s permits and meet the requirements of the court remand, but does not establish any new substantive requirements for small MS4 permits.  The final rule will become effective on January 9, 2017.  For more information, visit EPA’s website.